U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice on March 2, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions hammered home his steadfast opposition to legalizing marijuana while simultaneously displaying his own ignorance on the subject during a speech on violent crime in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday, March 15.
Sessions, who has a long track record of opposing marijuana reform and an equally long record of supporting tough-on-drug-crime legislation, described marijuana as “life-wrecking” and attempted to couple the dangers of marijuana with those of heroin.
He waxed nostalgic for the good old days of drug enforcement in the ‘80s and ‘90s, suggesting the same course of action could solve today’s drug crisis.
“So we need to focus on the third way we can fight drug use: preventing people from ever taking drugs in the first place.
I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life. In the ’80s and ’90s, we saw how campaigns stressing prevention brought down drug use and addiction. We can do this again. Educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. We can reduce the use of drugs, save lives and turn back the surge in crime that inevitably follows in the wake of increased drug abuse.”
What Sessions doesn’t mention is the staggering 700 percent increase in U.S. prison populations from the late 1970s to 2005, which has disproportionately affected people of color and is largely attributable to aggressive drug war policies during this period, as reported by the Huffington Post .
Sessions also makes no reference to legal pharmaceutical opiates, which are widely recognized as a key pathway to heroin addiction for many Americans, according to a 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Read transcripts of Sessions’ full speech, in all its reefer madness glory, here .
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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes questions during a press conference at the Department of Justice on March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions addressed the calls for him to recuse himself from Russia investigations after reports surfaced of meetings he had with the Russian ambassador during the U.S. presidential campaign. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Cannabis legalization advocates generally see Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence as bad news for the marijuana reform movement. The former Indiana governor opposed numerous marijuana reform initiatives in his home state, where possession of any amount of cannabis still carries the possibility of $1,000 in fines and up to 180 days in jail. Although vice-presidential powers are limited, Pence’s anti-marijuana sentiments could influence the Trump administration’s approach to drug policy. [Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images]
Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stated publicly in 2014 that he was “not a big fan” of Colorado’s recreational marijuana law, as reported by The Denver Post. [Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images]
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who was sworn in as the Trump administration’s secretary of state on Feb. 1, worked for decades in the private sector and doesn’t have a lengthy drug policy track record. He took some heat during Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings when he refused to condemn Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in his country. Duterte has encouraged police and vigilantes to shoot and kill drug dealers and has vowed to continue the crackdown until every drug criminal is dead, CNN reported. [Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images]
The Senate voted 88-11 to confirm Gen. John F. Kelly as the Trump administration’s Homeland Security Secretary on Jan. 20. Deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs, Michael Collins, has described Kelly as “a big-time drug war zealot” and calls his confirmation as the head of Homeland Security “incredibly worrying.” In 2014, Kelly told a Congressional hearing that U.S. marijuana legalization was undermining relations with Latin American countries, however, he has indicated support for medical cannabis, as reported by the Military Times. [Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
Former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Jan. 24, NPR reported. In 2014, the Republican congressman voted against House Amendment 1086, which would have prohibited states from penalizing banks who provide financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses. The same year, Pompeo opposed House Amendment 748, which sought to prevent states from authorizing medical cannabis use. [Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]
The Senate voted Tuesday, Jan. 24, to confirm South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley as the Trump administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, CNN reported. As governor of South Carolina, Haley approved legislation to legalize the medical use of low-THC cannabis oil for certain qualifying patients in 2014. She also signed the state’s Industrial Hemp Act into law the same year, according to the Tenth Amendment Center. [Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]
Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner and hedge fund manager who was confirmed as Trump’s treasury secretary on Monday, Feb. 13, has indicated that he’s open to reforming banking laws to extend financial services to state-legal marijuana businesses. In a written response to confirmation hearing questions posed by Senate Finance Committee members in January 2017, Mnuchin acknowledged the marijuana industry’s lack of access to traditional financial services as a pressing issue. He committed to working “with Congress and the president to determine which provisions of the current tax code should be retained, revised or eliminated to ensure that all individuals and businesses compete of a level playing field.” [Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al), who was confirmed as U.S. attorney general on Feb. 8, has a long record of opposing marijuana reform initiatives. In 2016, Sessions said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” and described the drug as a “very real danger” and “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions also spoke out against Justice Department officials working in the Obama administration for not aggressively cracking down on states that legalized marijuana in defiance of federal law, as reported by Politico. [Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images]
Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of the Interior has a somewhat mixed record on marijuana policy, according to Americans for Safe Access. As U.S. representative from Montana, Zinke voted in favor of Montana’s Therapeutic Marijuana Act in 2011, to provide medical cannabis access to patients with certain qualifying conditions. In 2015, Zinke voted in favor of the Veterans Equal Access amendment to extend medical cannabis access to veterans. However, he opposed the same amendment in 2016. Also in 2016, Zinke voted in favor of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute medical cannabis activities that are legal under state laws. [Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images]
Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Republican and former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, doesn’t have a clear stance on marijuana policy. However, as governor, Perdue took a hardline stand against illegally manufactured methamphetamine in his state, passing legislation to strengthen criminal penalties for the manufacture, transfer and possession of the drug, according to On The Issues. Hemp industry members are hopeful Perdue’s background in commodities will help to further establish the U.S. hemp market, according to Hemp Business Journal. [Photo credit: Jason Getz/Getty Images]
David Shulkin, confirmed to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Monday, Feb. 8, wrote in a 2016 letter to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that he "wholeheartedly agree[s] that VA should do all it can to foster open communication between Veterans and their VA providers, including discussion about participation in state marijuana programs." [Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has opposed both medical and recreational marijuana legalization measures in Congress. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws gave Price a “D” on its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. [Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has consistently opposed state-level marijuana legalization, and is currently involved in a lawsuit filed in 2016 over his efforts to block a medical marijuana ballot measure as Oklahoma attorney general. In 2014, Pruitt teamed up with Nebraska’s attorney general and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate Colorado’s legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use, though the Court rejected the challenge, as reported by the Associated Press. [Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
Trump’s Energy Secretary nominee, former Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, says he doesn’t personally support marijuana legalization, but he has voiced strong support for states’ rights to pass their own marijuana laws. Speaking on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” in 2014, Perry said: “I’m a big believer in the 10th Amendment. I don’t agree with those decisions that were made by that, by the state of Colorado or Washington, but I will defend it to my death, if you will, to allow them to make those decisions.” [Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]
Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), has supported a number of marijuana reform amendments in Congress, including measures aimed at extending medical cannabis access to military veterans and preventing the federal government from using federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana laws. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) gave Mulvaney a “B” on its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. [Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
Gallery source links:
Mike Pence – Leafly , On The Issues , NORML ; Reince Priebus – The Denver Post ; Rex Tillerson – CNN , CNN ; John Kelly – CBS News , Drug Policy Alliance , Military Times ; Mike Pompeo – NPR , Vote Smart ; Nikki Haley – CNN , Tenth Amendment Center ; Steven Mnuchin – NBC News , Senate Committee on Finance ; Jeff Sessions – USA Today , Politico ; Ryan Zinke – Americans for Safe Access , Vote Smart ; Sonny Perdue – On The Issues ; Hemp Business Journal ; David Shulkin – Department of Veterans Affairs/Scribd ; Tom Price – NORML ; Scott Pruitt – Associated Press ; Rick Perry – “ The Hugh Hewitt Show ”; Mick Mulvaney – NORML